Photo provided by J.B. Andrews
From the White Rabbit Cabaret on Prospect Street to The Hi-Fi on Virginia Avenue, the Indianapolis music mecca of Fountain Square is overflowing with distinctly curated venues, all offering concertgoers a smorgasbord of options every night. On Saturday, this family of spaces will get a little bit bigger, when the newly opened Pioneer welcomes bands to its stage for the very first time.
The newly-opened restaurant sits at the crossroads of Shelby Street and Virginia Avenue, directly south of the neighborhood’s signature plaza. Housed in a building that’s more than a century old, Pioneer specializes in the food of northeastern Italy and its Alpine neighbors (Austria, Germany and Switzerland), with a slew of tasty drink options as well. On top of all this, the space’s dining room will also serve as a prime spot to catch concerts, from local and touring acts alike, beginning this Saturday with an album release show from Indianapolis’ S.M. Wolf.
“We love so many different types of music, we’re into food and drink, and we really want to use this space for everybody,” explains general manager and beverage director J.B. Andrews. “The first focus is really going to be on a lot of the local bands here, and then we’ll move into booking things out of market.”
With a great deal of experience in the worlds of food and drink, Andrews has worked at popular Indy spots like Bluebeard, Ball & Biscuit, and Dorman Street Saloon since returning to his hometown seven years ago.
Photo provided by J.B. Andrews
Ultimately, it was because of music that the longtime sound engineer and multi-instrumentalist first pursued this career path in Indianapolis. He explains, “I started realizing that it was really easy. I could bartend three nights a week, completely support myself, and have four days a week to really focus on what I wanted to do.” Andrews has now mixed and mastered several albums since coming to this conclusion, while also occasionally making “weird electronic music” under mysterious pseudonyms as well. Recently, a few of the albums he’s engineered include Oreo Jones’ upcoming Cash 4 Gold full-length as well as a yet-to-be-announced album from Phases.
Through his work with the local scene, the Pioneer general manager has also gained a huge appreciation for the tunes that are coming out of Indianapolis, and he wants to make sure that the local music community can afford to eat at his rather pricey restaurant from time to time. For example, Andrews plans on hosting free matinee concerts at Pioneer, while also providing those who attend with a specially prepared menu featuring low-cost options. He says, “I’ve been an early 20s musician with no fucking money. I get it. I want them to come in, enjoy the space, have something really good to eat for cheap if they want to, and just get to enjoy an amazing sounding room.”
As the restaurant continues to phase into a regular schedule of events, Andrews also plans on hosting standup comedy, as well as live jazz during the early part of the week. All of this being said, Saturday night’s show is certainly the first in a long line of dominos to fall when it comes to future entertainment plans for the space.
Photo by Roberto Campos
“The S.M. Wolf show will be our first show here, and that’s going to be rad,” Andrews says. “I’m really excited that that gets to be our first show. They’re a great band.”
At the show, S.M. Wolf will unveil their debut full-length LP titled Neon Debris, with opening support from Mike Adams At His Honest Weight. Having been a few years in the making, the 10-song psych-pop record is the follow-up to the group’s self-titled 7” from 2013, and was written and recorded almost entirely by lead vocalist/guitarist Adam Gross (also see Amo Joy, P.O.N.S.).
“A lot of the songs on the new record are actually older than the songs on the first EP,” he says. “They were kind of just Amo Joy B-sides, and songs I had been writing and collecting over the years while waiting for the opportunity to put them out.”
With this in mind, there are still several overarching themes that surface over the course of Neon Debris. Gross says, “I wrote a lot of these songs when I was pretty down on my musical achievements so a lot of them are about frustration with that or they're me talking to myself trying to pump myself up. A couple are about my hometown, Elkhart, and the creativity that I've seen it suck out of a lot of my old friends. I was still heavily dealing with the death of my Amo Joy bandmate Paul Cobb at the time, and I think that made its way into a lot of the songs too.”
After the album’s release, S.M. Wolf has plans of dropping a music video while also embarking on some weekend tours of the Midwest. Before all of that, though, Gross is really just looking forward to the Pioneer shindig on Saturday.
“We're excited because it's the first show they've had and it's our first LP, so it's a big night for both of us,” he concludes. “We're hoping this show sets a good introductory tone for the rest of the shows they have.”
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